Category Archives: garlic

signs of new growth…

There is no better way to banish the January blues than to get outdoors and look out for new shoots. Yes, spring is a while away but today I saw the first snowdrops, just coming through, in the old orchard.  This early flowering cultivar is John Gray.  I bought a specimen ‘in the green’ last year from Ashwood Nurseries.  I’m pleased to see it has survived!

dsc_0018Garlic and rhubarb are both showing signs of growth.

dsc_0021dsc_0024We’ll be propagating from and transplanting our ‘Timperley Early’ this year.  This can be done in early spring or autumn, though as we need to prepare the new planting area at the end of the piggery it’s likely the move will be in the autumn.  I may add ‘Poulton’s Pride’ and ‘Sutton’ as these varieties are reputed to have very good flavour.

The globe artichokes came through the cold snap unscathed; I leave the flower heads on through the winter as a potential food source for the birds and an overwintering home for ladybirds.

dsc_0016dsc_0017New leaves are already appearing at the base.

The hazels are awash with catkins and tiny female flowers; looking hard I can see the tuft of red styles.

dsc_0015So lots of signs of new growth – spring will be here before we know it, so now is the time to kick back and have a breather before the main sowing season starts in earnest!


and the wind doth blow…

dsc_0632-3This morning I was admiring the amber-gold foliage of the oak trees in and around our holding.

dsc_0625-5Then the winds hit and the leaves streamed horizontally into the adjacent fields.  The autumn colour won’t be around for long.  Today it’s a prevailing south westerly; strong, around 24mph at times.  As it has brought the rain I have retreated inside to continue with preserving.

Luckily we had picked all the medlars yesterday, otherwise the fruit would have been scattered to the ground.  Our picking was quite late, many had already bletted whilst still on the tree.  Even so, I should have enough hard fruits.

dsc_0624-3An 80:20 ratio of bletted to hard fruit should help set the jelly, (the unripe fruit contain more pectin).

dsc_0632-2We have started planting for next year.  The garlic went in yesterday; Arno; Provence Wight; Germidour and Carcassone as well as Elephant.  We had  ordered Garcua and Garpek, which produced fabulous heads for us but the quality wasn’t sufficiently good, so the supplier withdrew these varieties.  I may break a rule and plant some cloves from our own heads.  I’m also experimenting with starting the autumn onion and shallot sets in modules as the spring planting did so well when started off inside.

dsc_0624We have made excellent inroads into preserving the gluts of late summer and we’re finding new recipes for our produce.  Squash risotto is an excellent choice for a cold day!

dsc_0629-2Reading this week: An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade


bring on the heat….

If you are a dedicated GYO then it pays to have some decent vegetarian recipes up your sleeve.  We raided the polytunnel for chillies and tomatoes; the veg. plot supplied garlic and onion.  I did look at our aubergines but decided they needed to bulk up a tad so I picked one up with the groceries.

dsc_0545As our chillies range the scoville scale from mild to inferno, I substituted some Poblano for bell peppers added Joe’s Long for a bit of pep and the lovely OH made harrissa paste, adding in Super Chilli.

dsc_0552Once the vegetables had roasted for 45 minutes I added the harissa along with more of our tomatoes, (instead of canned) and returned to the oven whilst I baked couscous.  Finally all the ingredients were stirred together and served with a sprinkle of coriander.


Listening to this week: Plants: From Roots to Riches omnibus editions on Radio iPlayer.

tumbling towards autumn…

The wonderful thing about living in a temperate zone is that you experience the transitions between seasons.   The truly hot summer weeks have been few this year – a fleeting 10 days in June, possibly a number of weeks in August, fingers crossed.  In the growing patch some of my favourite vegetables have been harvested for storing or are bulking up, ready to be lifted for glorious feasts later this year…..

garlicThe lovely OH did a roaring trade selling our excess garlic at a local agricultural show whilst supporting our smallholder association.  The onions have been lifted and are drying before stringing….

DSC_0041Cabbages and kales are often underrated, but I love red cabbage with bacon served alongside loin of venison with a red wine sauce , (Rosemary Shrager does a cracking recipe).

DSC_0035This year I have sown, for the first time, celeriac, (makes a delicious soup), and quinoa…

DSC_0031DSC_0033and of course, the pumpkins and squashes are starting to swell…

DSC_0034so much good food to look forward to!


mash up and marinade…

Finally – a forecast of a few days of sun!  So of course, we lifted the garlic.

DSC_0007The elephant garlic has produced lots of little mini cloves that we’ve put aside to plant in the autumn.

DSC_0002Monty Don broadcast a handy reminder on Gardeners’ World last week on how to lift garlic, i.e. lift from the base, don’t pull it up by the stalk as this can damage the head.  Something I learnt – don’t trim the roots and leave the stem fully intact, apparently this improves keeping.   Poor Monty has white rot in his growing area.  This is a serious disease caused by a fungus, Stromatinia cepivora.  I like to grow certified stock in the main vegetable plot each year for the alliums, (onions, shallots, garlic), so the bulblets from the elephant garlic will be planted out in the growing area next to the polytunnel.

We’ll dry cure most of the heads before storing but for now, we can make use of the deliciously fat, juicy cloves…

DSC_0013DSC_0010 DSC_0011… to make a rub for a leg of lamb (garlic, rosemary, lemon, olive oil).

To serve with fresh mint sauce,

DSC_0015alongside just picked peas. just dug, potatoes from the vegetable garden.

A classic Sunday roast.

new shoots….

The recently planted garlic has put on growth already!


As has the Timperley Early rhubarb which the lovely OH lightly covered with straw a few weeks back.


Plus the indoor hyacinth bulbs, (‘Blue Jacket’),  I belatedly planted have started to poke above the compost.


The cuttings and mini plug plants are doing fine.


All good.  However, the real new shoots will be a big project for 2016. We will be designing and building an ornamental garden in the space between the house and the productive garden.  A blank canvas of grass at the moment.


Those who know me from my design days may be falling off their chairs at this point.

First steps….a site survey!

in with the new….

DSC_0520The first significant ground frost of late autumn arrived overnight.   Some of the garlic made it into the ground yesterday but rain stopped play.

This year we are planting some new, (to us), varieties.  This is not by design.  By the time I had got round to ordering the garlic from T&M they had sold out of all the usual suspects.  The options left included ‘Arno’; ‘Garcua’; ‘Garpek’; ‘Sultop’; ‘Sprint’ and ‘Thermidrome’.  Whilst the more familiar varieties had been snapped up early, I could be onto a winner with the lesser known.

First up ‘Arno’  – has the RHS AGM, so a good start, and is described as ‘an attractive softneck garlic with ivory-white skin covering pink cloves which stores well’.  I’m loving it already.

‘Garcua’ and ‘Garpek’ are varieties which were bred by PLANASA, a huge multinational plant breeder.  ‘Garcua’ is a softneck, white variety, with high yields and good storage capability.  ‘Garpek’ is a hardneck, purple garlic variety, also high yielding, early with an ‘intense aroma and flavour’.

‘Thermidrome’ is a commercial French, white variety and is tried and tested.  Reliable, producing big fat heads.

‘Sultop’, a hardneck, a white skin covering red skinned cloves.  Said to have an intense flavour.  A hardneck variety won’t store as long as the softnecks, so one to use up first.

Finally, ‘Sprint’, which was certainly living up to its name as it had already sprouted.  A white bulb with violet streaks. Again this is a hardneck variety and so won’t store, but it will be ready to lift a number of weeks before the rest.

For the first time this year we will also plant some cloves from the garlic heads we harvested this summer.   Usually we avoid this, preferring to plant certified virus free stock.  This includes cloves of Elephant garlic, Allium ampeloprasum,  (not really a garlic – rather a relative of the leek); last year these produced large monobulbs; if the season is long enough we may get the single cloves to split into more like the garlic, though we could also leave the bulbs in the ground for another season to make sure of forming heads.

DSC_0522We shall see how these cloves fare alongside the bought in cloves.  I’m looking forward to next summer already!